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Varathron – The Crimson Temple

varathron – the crimson temple


While Rotting Christ might be the international face of Greek Black Metal, Varathron is arguably the band that has been most passionately toiling in the underground, continuously serving their audience a good string of classic releases to this day. While the band will always be deservedly praised for their role in developing the Hellenic sound through their demos and first two albums – the legendary ‘His Majesty at the Swamp’ and ‘Walpurgisnacht’; their legacy continues to this day. The release of ‘Patriarchs of Evil’ in 2018 was not just their best record in years, but it completely set a new template to what the Mediterranean Black Metal sound should aspire to sound like in modern times. This is something which the band has continued to adapt for this newest album, ‘The Crimson Temple’.

For those who have not followed Varathron’s evolution or are only familiar with the first albums, there has been quite a jump in many aspects. The first two Varathron albums are very good representations of what the early Hellenic scene consisted of – thin production values (courtesy of Storm Studios), drum machine and mid-paced riffing lifted from classic Heavy Metal. Despite the limitations, the result were classic albums that oozed a warm and humid atmosphere drenched in an occult vibe. Over the years, all these elements have faded away to give us a much more expansive and ambitious attempt to modernize the Hellenic sound while still keeping true to its roots. This has in great part been possible thanks to the collective work of Necroabyssious (the only original member left) and guitarists Achilleas and Sotiris who were onboarded nearly 20 years ago.

Listening to The Crimson Temple, you can see the dedication and passion the band has placed into crafting an astounding album. The first thing that immediately grabs you by this record is the production values, there is certainly very little rawness here compared to what one normally expects in the genre, but it serves its purpose to create a fleshed out epic and bombastic sound. This is the core of what The Crimson Temple is about, as evidenced by the myriad of arrangements that are thrown into the mix. There is not just your traditional riffing, but loud synths and choral parts added in that give the music a majestic and regal feeling. Contrary to most classic Greek Black Metal, the songs are no longer mid-paced (other tracks like ‘Gods of Yore’) but rather a flurry of intense riffs after riffs. This is all complimented by the strong drumming of Haris, who alternatives between furious blastbeats and more softer fills that aids the sudden transitions towards the more epic elements.

We cannot leave aside the incredible guitarwork on this album, the incredible dynamic between duo Achilleas and Sotiris. They are both key towards anchoring the album in the Hellenic tradition, by borrowing from Traditional Heavy metal for its rhythmic section and the guitar solos. Here there is no desire to hold back, as the solos are soaring in nature – transporting the listener to another plane. Many passages of the album are also tempered with periodic folk interludes (see ‘Immortalis Regnum Diaboli’) that successfully serve as a good transition towards faster passages or more soloing. The vocal performance of Necroabyssious leaves nothing to be desired, his raspy growls continue to sound nearly as intact as they did 30 years ago and doesn’t hold back with their intense feel.

It’s difficult trying to balance the desire to stay true to your origins, but Varathron serves as a template for how to do so. This album is rich in details, worthy of multiple re-listens to capture all the miniscule parts that form this grandiose record. Just as it is not easy to write a new record as a newer band, it is less so for a band with a legacy like Varathron. Perhaps old school Hellenic Black Metal purists will not like this record, but if you’re curious to hear how Hellenic Black Metal can continue evolving and present itself in a modern setting, this record is for you.

Agonia Records

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